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A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age
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A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  2,264 ratings  ·  374 reviews
From The New York Times bestselling author of THE ORGANIZED MIND and THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON MUSIC, a primer to the critical thinking that is more necessary now than ever.

We are bombarded with more information each day than our brains can process—especially in election season. It's raining bad data, half-truths, and even outright lies. New York Times bestselling author Dani
Hardcover, 292 pages
Published September 6th 2016 by Dutton
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3.76  · 
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 ·  2,264 ratings  ·  374 reviews

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The most important component of the best critical thinking that is lacking in our society today is humility. It is a simple yet profound notion: If we realize we don’t know everything, we can learn. If we think we know everything, learning is impossible.

Who knew a book about numbers could be so entertaining? Weaponized Lies is written for the average person, those of us who aren't statisticians or scientists. It introduces fundamental critical thinking skills that will assist the reader in mak
Oh, boy, I wish every one of my fellow citizens had the information shared in this book as part of their reading regime. On one hand, it would make it much harder to convince people with statistics. On the other hand, it would be much harder to convince people with statistics. Come to think of it, I think nowadays most people mistrust statistics, unless the statistics back up their own opinion.

How many times I received end-of-quarter reports from some mutual fund company showing showing growth
Sep 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
If someone told me I would read a book about numbers and enjoy it as much as a good novel, I suspect I would snort with laughter. Not that I'm number phobic or a math hater, but reading about numbers seems like an awfully dull way to spend precious reading time. But Trish's review of A field Guide to Lies piqued my interest, so I decided to give it a try. And, in fairness, the title doesn't suggest that this is mostly a book about numbers. But it didn't make for dull reading. In a very matter of ...more
This is a book about how to spot problems with the facts you encounter, problems that may lead you to draw the wrong conclusions - critical skills that we need today since we're blasted with information in a society based on conspicuous consumption. Everyone wants our support or to sell us something & many are skilled at leveraging our inherent flaws in reasoning to this end. Reading this should be a prerequisite for posting on Facebook.

The flaws inherent in our reasoning are manifold. We're
Mar 19, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
One of the most dangerous bits of confusion out there is the idea that "we live longer". I was very happy that Levitin addresses this early on (p.20), explaining that AVERAGE life expectancy is up a lot mainly because children don't die, not because there used to be no old people. 4* at that point. :-)

So why 1* for the book? Because on p.175, he makes an argument based on the statement that "people are living longer." For crying out loud, did he not read his own @#$%^& book?!

There's a bigger
Aug 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-math
A good mix of Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail - But Some Don't and Edward Tufte's The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, with original ideas thrown in as well.

It makes me sad to think that people actually need to be told some of the information in this book, like “Check the y-axis on any chart presented by a politician”, or that and Consumer Reports are good places to check the veracity of claims. However, it seems like people need to be t
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A wonderfully well written book, on how to recognize fallacies and biased perspectives and to immune ourselves from being stuck with false beliefs.
Dec 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Finished this just in time to order it for fall! I'll swap it for Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking, a remarkable book for its small size and clear, non-jargon prose, but it's just not cutting it anymore in the Trump era. (I'll still use Huff's classic How to Lie with Statistics.)
Atila Iamarino
Oct 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ciencia, informacao
Bom livro sobre leitura crítica para tempos modernos que passa por um pouco de tudo. Sei de bons exemplos mais a fundo de cada tópico, mas vale pela obra toda, especialmente porque economiza a leitura de vários livros. Boas descrições de como se mente como estatísticas com anedotas bem ilustrativas, algo que o The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles, and Rare Events Happen Every Day cobre mais profundamente. Uma noção do que é informação científica, como ela é coletada e como mud ...more
Mar 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Daniel Levitin's Field guide presents a guide for putting in practice critical thinking, ranging from analyzing how numbers are presented in graphs, to applying Bayesian probabilities to court cases and life's decision, to recognizing logical fallacies and much more. The style is simple and the tone is sometimes colloquial. From what I understood by looking at previous reviews, some people found this book eye-opening, others felt that we should already know how to go about misinformation and cou ...more
David Yoon
Oct 26, 2016 rated it liked it
You could argue reading this is timely in the lead up to the 2016 elections but it speaks to a nuance that is completely lacking in this particular campaign.

It’s more about the skewing of stats, presenting information that favours your viewpoint, logical fallacies. And it ties it into Fox News polls, autism claims, 9/11 truthers, unknown unknowns and more.

And while the sly authorial voice does occasionally peek out it reads like a first year textbook. There’s the missed potential to have more
While I wish the tone were less dry and textbooklike, the information is very, very useful.
Mar 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Statistically, 1 out of every 1 me knows less about Bayesian analysis than I think I do.
Dec 31, 2016 rated it it was ok
Ultimately falls into an awkward gap, being conceptionally fairly basic...very familiar to anyone who has taken logic and stats classes. On the other, my initial hope that it would be full of amusing uses of bad statistics and logic to at least entertain if not educating wasn't fully gratified either.
Gary Foss
Aug 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
This is the kind of book that should be distributed to high school juniors and seniors, and upon which tests should be composed which would determine whether or not students were to be issued diplomas. Maybe not this particular text. Levitin is writing for a broader market and more general audience than the average or below average high schooler whose mental powers need some sort of hammering into shape. But if not this one then one very similar.

As for adults, Levitin's target audience, all I ca
Zain Hashmy
Apr 04, 2018 rated it liked it
This is one of those rare books that I feel does not deserve a proper review. It sits squarely in the area of books that are not good enough to be praised, but not bad enough to be ridiculed either.
The title was what drew me to the book, because the sheer amount of content that I consume in an average day is higher than average, making the chances that I am exposed to false claims also higher than most people. To separate the wheat from the chaff, quickly and efficiently and to use fancy terms t
عبدالرحمن عقاب
الكتاب جيد. لكن أسلوبه ممل لكثرة الأمثلة. جزؤه الأول-من بين أجزائه الثلاثة- هو الأهم. وهو الجزء الذي تحدث فيه عن الإحصاءات وأسلوب الخداع بها. أما باقي الكتاب فلم يكن بأهمية أوله ولا بحسن عرضه.
يدور الكتاب حول الأساليب التي يمكن للكاتب أو الباحث فيها خداع القارئ باستخدام الأرقام والإحصاء أو باستخدام اللغة.
تساءلت كثيرا وأنا أقرأ الجزء الخاص بالإحصاء عن كم الخداع الذي ربما اكون قد خدعت به سابقا خاصة من شركات الأدوية حين تعرض منتجاتها. ههههه
Nov 21, 2018 rated it liked it
As a book, it's good: occasionally funny, excellent examples, scrupulously fair (the only mention of Trump is followed by a similar example from Clinton)--maybe overscrupulous--and a good translation of complex logical arguments into simple language, though the Bayesian discussions get a little dense toward the end.

As a skill set, it is absolutely essential, especially nowadays. When I went to library school, I was dumbfounded that people don't recognize when information is unreliably sourced,
Sep 19, 2016 rated it it was ok
Far more about statistics and scientific studies than expected, and not really written for those of us who do understand the scientific method and statistics.
In addition, Levitin switches too quickly between examples to let each one have its proper weight, almost like he's flipping among news sources, assuming the reader is flipping along as well. Some in-text sourcing might help resolve this issue... now that I think about it, I think Levitin could benefit from a good newswriting class himself.
Bernard O'Leary
Mar 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You would think that most of the information in this book – verifying sources, avoiding fallacious logic, basic statistics and so on – would be such common knowledge as for this book to be totally superfluous. Like, surely people know all this stuff, right?

Fair point.

It's an articulate explainer of quite basic rationalism, although I have a feeling that the people who need to read it probably won't.
Aug 27, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, reviewed
Not really what I was expecting; this is essentially a logic textbook for those of us not attending school. The ones who really need to read this, the anti-science, conspiracy theory, alternate-facts folks, wont.
Adrian Hoad-Reddick
Oct 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This insightful book ought to be a multi discipline high school course that all students should take. It unravels mathematical mistruths and weasel words, and includes heaps of web literacy, logic and other ways to encourage mindful discrimination of truths in the face of the infoglut deluge.
Peter Mcloughlin
Fairly Good book on how to check out if something you read in a news article or on the internet is true. Statistical information is really well explained in this book and makes it worth the purchase price the other stuff is useful but it consists of testing reality claims that any good skepticism book will provide. Some of the stats info you will only get in this book plus it is pretty up to date taking in the phenomena of fake news which is proliferating and the post-truth world. good intellect ...more
Nancy Mills
Sep 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great guide for recognizing spin. Spotlights the various ways data can be presented and numbers manipulated to lead you to conclusions presenters want you to believe. I listened to the audiobook and I probably should have read the paper version, as I imagine there are graphs and other helpful illustrations.
Once you accept the idea that much of what you see on the internet has maybe only a nodding acquaintance with truth, the question becomes how to distinguish between fact and fancy. Levitin's book looks at ways in which reality gets distorted and why, and then covers ways that the reader can identify those tricks and figure out what's really going on.
Mar 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: research
Not a bad book, quite a good one in fact, just not what I was expecting / wanting. Levitin focuses more on maths, equations and science and I'm not really in the market for a textbook right now. Still, this is an important subject and we need all the help we can get to survive this age of Alternative Bullshit. Glad I read it, just not very useful for the research I needed assistance with.
Jennifer (JenIsNotaBookSnob)
Feb 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017nonfiction
Excellent book, however, if you have read much about critical thinking or taken a statistics class a lot of this won't be new information. I really enjoyed the first third of the book, but, then it started to run out of steam for me merely because I took a statistics class just a few years ago and have read other articles/books on critical thinking in the last few years.
If it's been more than a few years since you've done either, than this will probably be a really enjoyable read. As it was, I
Maggie Gordon
Nov 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I am an academic by trade. Methods and I are good friends at this point as I have spent ten years learning how to construct and evaluate arguments and data. I recognise this is not an accurate reflection of most people's lives. However, critical thinking and the ability to understand and parse statistics is a required skill for being a good citizen in today's world, and for living an optimum life. Unfortunately, these skills are undervalued, leading to a lot of misinformation being propagated an ...more
Feb 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I love it when I come across well rounded and informative non-fiction as I get the opportunity to talk about it non-stop. A Field Guide to Lies and Statistics is exactly what it says on the tin. Daniel Levitin has spent his career learning about the mind; social/economic sciences and writing books about how to understand the modern world we live in today. Along the way he has crafted an entertaining, digestible and objective writing style that gives the reader an unbiased view of his content whi ...more
Oct 23, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book joins a growing list of 'skeptic' sites/books/authors and as such is deeply skewed to orthodox anti-conspiratorial explanations. Being an academic, the author is beholden to the system that puts bread on his table. He skips from topic to topic too quickly and doesn't delve into enough details to put conspiracy theories to bed - he simply dismisses them with some form of simplistic analysis. A good example would be his too-brief treatment of 911 is which he places great weight on so-cal ...more
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Daniel J. Levitin runs the Laboratory for Musical Perception, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University, where he holds the Bell Chair in the Psychology of Electronic Communication. Before becoming a neuroscientist, he worked as a session musician, sound engineer and record producer. He has written extensively both in scientific journals and music trade magazines such as Grammy and Billboard.

“Be careful of averages and how they’re applied. One way that they can fool you is if the average combines samples from disparate populations. This can lead to absurd observations such as:
"On average, humans have one testicle.”
“A big part of the problem here is that the human brain often makes up its mind based on emotional considerations, and then seeks to justify them. And the brain is a very powerful self-justifying machine.” 2 likes
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